As a pollster for the Buffalo News, I'm asked to send in my weekly ballots ranking the top ten large and small schools. The polls are based on games played through Sunday of each week. Here's a look at how I see them and some of the rationale used to get there.
1. Canisius (MMA) - You can't start the season much better than knocking off the defending CHSAA Class A state champions, who brought back four starters, two of which will play for Manhattan College. Even more impressive, the Crusaders did it with four new starters - three of which are underclassmen, including two sophomores.
2. McKinley (A1) - They've only played once, but showed enough in 32 minutes this season that I'm comfortable putting them this high, despite returning no starters.
3. Jamestown (AA) - Opened with a 20-point home loss to Greece Athena before hammering Bennett the following night. I'll give them the nod as the top Class AA school because they've earned that respect. Greece Athena might be the top Class AA school between here and Syracuse, and possibly beyond.
4. Clarence (AA) - Tough to start off any better than the Red Devils have, and they certainly have an argument to be ahead of Jamestown. But I'll need to see them end a 13-game skid to the Red Raiders or see Jamestown lose tomorrow at Williamsville North before they'll get the bump.
5. Timon/St. Jude (MMA) - Despite losses to East, Olean, and Aquinas, I think the Tigers grab this spot on the strength of their win against Williamsville North at the Cataract City Classic. I also think the losses they suffered would happen to all the teams I have below them.
6. Williamsville North (AA) - Rebounded from an overtime loss to Timon and a last second home loss to Clarence, with a nice victory over visiting Lancaster. Jamestown comes a knocking tomorrow night, which likely means another dramatic finish for the Spartans - one they hope to be on a different end of this time around.
7. Amherst (A2) - Loss to Clarence on an Elliott Case buzzer-beater gets them a spot right next to the Spartans who also lost by two points to the Red Devils.
8. St. Joe's (MMA) - Winners of the Lockport Tournament have a full plate this week, playing Bishop Kearney, Park, and McKinley.
9. Lockport (AA) - A 3-1 start with its only loss in overtime to St. Joe's. A very important week for the Lions as they visit both Kenmore West and North Tonawanda. We'll know by week's end if they are really the Kings of the jungle, or at least the NFL.
10. Kenmore West (AA) - Rebounded from a season-opening loss to McKinley with a pair of 40-point wins and then went into the Lumber Yard and handed North Tonawanda a 10-point loss. Tomorrow night is a big one for the Blue Devils against visiting Lockport.
1. Olean (B1) - After taking care of Timon at home, the Huskies went out to Rochester and made a statement at Bishop Kearney in a 20-point win over the defending Class AA state champions. That result swayed me, because until then, I had a different team in mind for number one.
2. East (B2) - The Panthers have just one game in the books, but it was a doozy - a 23-point win against Timon - the same Timon that lost by only five at Olean. As I wrote above, the Huskies beating Kearney swayed me, but if Rasheed Paul enters the East lineup and puts them at yet another level, I might just sway back.
3. St. Mary's (MMA) - Led the entire contest against Middle College and looked like a team with a lot of chemistry along the way. Lancer Nation will be a tough out this season.
4. Fredonia (B1) - Tough to gage them early on with a win over Falconer/Frewsburg and a loss to Greece Athena. But recalling the team from last season and judging by the start Dylan Meyer is having, they should be highly regarded. The Hillbillies are at Lackawanna tomorrow night.
5. Randolph (C2) - Cardinals 74, Maple Grove 19 - no, that's not a football score. The rematch is tomorrow, sorry Red Dragons.
6. Middle College (C1) - I saw enough from the Kats in their loss to St. Mary's to know they belong up here and that they'll be at JCC at season's end looking for another sectional crown.
7. Nichols (MMA) - They beat a very good Cleveland Hill team in a game that I saw, then lost badly to Lancaster in one that I missed. But from what I did see of them, I'd take them over...
8. Park (MMA) - the Pioneers, who have joined the MMA this year and started fast. Earned a pair of significant wins this weekend against Health Sciences and Silver Creek, after trailing in both contests. Host Canisius tomorrow night.
9. Silver Creek (C1) - Billy Brooks has been phenomonal for the Black Knights, who will be a dangerous team once again when they get Kaine Kettle back in their lineup.
10. Health Sciences (B2) - The Falcons have started 6-1, with their only loss coming at Park by five points.